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Hubert..last of the Flying Corps heroes; WW1 ACE DIES AT 106.

Byline: BRENDON WILLIAMS

TOUCHING tributes were paid yesterday to hero pilot Hubert Williams - last survivor of the Royal Flying Corps - who died aged 106.

The World War One Veterans Association said: "It is truly the end of an era." The Western Front Association said: "He makes all of us feel so humble." And his family said: "We are very proud of him."

Hubert flew Sopwith Camel biplanes on bombing raids over German lines within weeks of joining up at 20 and was shot down and nearly killed two years later. But he always said modestly: "I'm no hero - I just consider myself a remarkably lucky man to have survived."

He once said: "I was keen to get cracking to stop the enemy coming into the country. We knew we might die but we were prepared to die for our country.

"I can remember the bombing, the shrapnel, shells going off all around, the guns flashing. It was terrible. There was smoke everywhere. I could hear people screaming and there was masses of blood.

"I remember waving to one colleague and the next second he was a ball of flames.

"He was shot down by a German plane and I expected the same to happen to me at any second."

Hubert joined the RFC - which later became the RAF - in 1915 despite a pilot's life expectancy being "only hours". But the pay of two shillings and eight pence a day - less than 14p - was better than the Army or Navy.

After "training" - seven hours' flying around a field in a glider - he saw action over German trenches at the Somme in 1916.

At 22 he was shot down over Macedonia in Greece. Villagers pulled him unconscious from the wreck and he spent nine months in hospital in Malta.

When the Second World War began Hubert joined the RAF, training pilots to fly and reaching the rank of Squadron Leader.

On his 100th birthday he was allowed to take the controls of Concorde on a flight to New York.

When he was 102 a French consul visited his Cardiff nursing home to present him with the Legion d'Honneur bravery award.

World War One Veterans Association head Dennis Goodwin said last night Hubert was one of "a band of pioneering pilots who were brave beyond the call of duty.

"They knew every time they went into the air that the odds against returning alive were heavily stacked against them."

Vernon Davies, South Wales chairman of the Western Front Association, said: "They took their lives in their hands every time they stepped in the cockpit."

Hubert's daughter Marcia Cornish, 70, said: "He was a modest man who never spoke of his time in the RFC until the last few years."

The RAF will pay tribute to Hubert at his funeral next week when a senior officer will lay a wreath with the RFC badge.

CAPTION(S):

SURVIVOR: Hubert Williams; BATTLE: Hubert flew Sopwith Camel; HERO: Hubert joins up in 1915
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 20, 2002
Words:496
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